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Overcoming Fear in Everyday Life

Overcoming Fear in Everyday Life: my daily struggle with social anxiety | College with Caitlyn
This week I made the decision to face my fears. I’m not talking about huge phobias like spiders, the dark, IVs, public speaking or things like that (and yes I am actually super afraid of all of those). I’m talking about small things that come up on a day-to-day basis. For me, that’s being social. You see, I have this strange thing with talking to people and starting conversations.
People who are close to me know that starting and continuing a conversation is one of the hardest things for me to do. Even just saying hi can freak me out sometimes. There have been multiple instances where I’ve seen someone I know, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to them or even send a smile their way. Then I just felt awkward so I had to look away, and then it looked like I was ignoring them and didn’t want to talk to them. Which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to happen.
Talking to people I’m not close with freaks me out so much that I barely ever talked to my roommate during school. I literally lived with her for almost five months and I probably exchanged less than 200 words with her. Just asking if I could turn the light off at night made me nervous, so asking if I could use her TV to watch Dancing with the Stars one night really took some courage. I would never have done that if my friend hadn’t threatened that watching the show was a life or death situation.
It’s not just striking up conversations that’s difficult for me; I also find it difficult to look people in the eyes when talking to them, or when they’re talking to me. It just feels wrong and too personal for me. There are very, very few people I can actually look at when I’m talking to them. Usually when I talk to people I’m looking at the ground, behind them, or at someone else. I know this seems really rude to people, so it’s one the things I know I need to work on the most.

I sat down last weekend and tried to figure out why being social freaks me the heck out, and I couldn’t really come up with any rational reason. I definitely came up with some irrational ones though: I’m scared of being humiliated; I’m scared that the person I try to talk to doesn’t want to talk to me, that they’ll think I’m clingy or desperate for even thinking they’d want to talk to me; I get scared that they think I’m a bother to them; I get scared that they’ll find me weird or annoying or that I’ll talk too much or too little. Basically, I just come up with the most irrational reasons to psych myself out of talking to anyone. This is not how I want to live the rest of my life, and I’m determined to change it.

Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.

The quickest way to overcome your fear is to do exactly what is scaring you, so that’s exactly what I did. I forced myself to start a conversation, or say something I was scared to say, almost everyday last week. And it was really hard.
The first two times I tried to do it, I literally stood around and paced for a couple minutes, repeating what I planned to say over and over again. Multiple times I thought that I should just give up and sit back down, but I knew that was just my fear talking, so I pushed those thoughts away. The first two times I was also so nervous that even after the conversation was over, my hands were shaking.
As the week went on, it did get easier and I didn’t have to work myself up as much and the shaky hands didn’t make any more appearances.
But don’t get the idea that now that I’ve faced my fear that I don’t have it anymore, because I still do. Now I just know what I’m capable of, and I’ve expanded my limits. Because that’s what’s fears are: your limits. If you want to grow and change, then you have to push past your stopping points. You’re never going to feel any different if you continue to do what you’ve always done.
Not only will doing the things you’re most afraid of make you feel free, but it will also make you proud of yourself. Each time I followed through with my plan, I got a feeling of elation and lightness. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone made me feel like my days of living in fear of social interaction were behind me. Like in those few seconds alone I’ve grown two inches taller and two years wiser. If that’s not motivation to continue breaking down barriers and pushing past my limits, then I don’t know what is.
picture source: Pinterest | Unknown original

How do I get the courage?

Working up courage can be hard, so I’ll give you a little tip: every time I was working myself up to say something, I’d always think about how great I’ll feel afterward and how upset and awful I’d feel if I didn’t say what I wanted.

You have to ask yourself, would you rather try (and possibly fail), or never try and regret not taking the chance?

Life moves too fast for you to sit and live in fear. If you want to do something, then do it. There were way too many times last semester that I wanted to answer a question my professor posed, but I spent too much time composing my answer in my head that she would move on before I could even lift a finger. If you’re scared that you’re going to sound stupid, because you didn’t think about what you were going to say, don’t be. Honestly, I think it’s admirable when someone stumbles over their words because it shows how nervous they were to talk, but they did it anyway.
The most relatable example I can come up with for this quote is talking to a crush. Too many times, I’ve seen my friends, cousins, sister and myself stress out about composing the perfect text message or SnapChat that it becomes this huge drawn out thing. We’re all either scared that we’re going to send too many emojis or reply too fast or send an unflattering photo, but really we’re just overthinking everything.
We just have to learn to face our fear of looking desperate or being shot down and take a chance and just hit send or say hi. Don’t wait, because you could end up fawning over someone who doesn’t think anything of you at all. Then you’ll realize that you wasted all the time trying to be perfect. Don’t compose things to be perfect, compose things to be the real you. It shouldn’t matter if you add like ten emojis to the end of a text or reply within two minutes or send a photo of you that isn’t perfect. If they really like you then it won’t bother them.
You’ll also be happy that you didn’t wait if they do ending feeling the same way as you do, because that’s less time for you to be freaking out about how they feel towards you. Basically what I’m trying to get at here is if you take the risk, you won’t regret it no matter which way it ends.
Remember, don’t be discouraged if things don’t happen like you imagined. If you face your fear, and it doesn’t go as planned it’s okay. The point is that you tried and therefore conquered it. Coming from a person who’s experienced both regret and failure, I’d much rather try and fail at something than regret never trying it. So what things didn’t turn out exactly as you planned? At least you put in the effort.
 
picture source: Pinterest | Unknown original
Don’t let fear rule your life. Do exactly what you’re scared to do, and I promise that you won’t regret it. Whether it’s asking for help in school, saying hi to someone new, striking up a conversation with a colleague, calling to set up a doctor’s appointment or sending that text message to a crush; just do it.
I’ve learned that it’s really the anticipation and moments before that really freak us out. Like when I ran track in high school, I was literally so excited to run all day long. Then they’d do first call, and second call, and third call and somehow I was on the start line and I couldn’t breathe. I just wanted to start and get the race over with. The only reason I was freaking out was because there was too much time between first call and the starting gun to think about all the ways I could fail in during the race. The actual race is not the worst part, it was my thought process leading up to it.
So the next time you get freaked out about something, don’t give yourself time to think about it. Make like Nike and just do it.

I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me last week about my Learning to Love Yourself post. I didn’t think I would receive the response that I did and I can’t express how much I appreciate all your kind words. It made me really look forward to writing this week’s piece. I hope you enjoy it and can take inspiration from this as well. Here’s to growth and overcoming fears.
As always, remember to share this with someone who you think needs it and leave a comment if there’s something you want to share with me. Remember that’s it’s a great week to have a great week. Here’s to breaking down barriers, setting new limits and overcoming fears.

What daily fears do you struggle with? Let me know in the comments below!

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